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'He was trying to breathe': Mom of Oklahoma man who died in cop custody finds new footage hard to watch

Randy Ellis
The Oklahoman

OKLAHOMA CITY – Black Oklahoma City resident Derrick Elliott Olie Scott pleaded "I can't breathe! Please! Help me! I can't breathe," on May 20, 2019, as three Oklahoma City police officers pinned him to the ground with their knees and hands, removed a handgun from his pocket and held him there for about 13 minutes while waiting for paramedics to arrive.

Scott's pleas were chillingly similar to those of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police has been the catalyst for nationwide protests.

Scott, 41, was pronounced dead at an Oklahoma City hospital about an hour after his arrest.

Release of police officers' body cam video of the arrest was one of the demands of Black Lives Matter. The Oklahoma City Police Department complied with that demand Monday by releasing the video to family and the news media.

Derrick Scott's mother, Vickey Scott, reviewed portions of the arrest videos and was upset by what she saw.

"I think that it was one of the most inhumane things that I have ever seen," Vickey Scott said. "They did not do anything for him. They treated him like he was an animal. He was trying to get his breath. He was trying to breathe, and they ignored him the whole time, like he was nothing. They even treat animals better than they treated my son.

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"It's very hard," she said. "I want every mother to watch that ... and imagine that's your son's last so many minutes of life and he's dying and they're saying that he's faking."

In this image made from a May 2019 body-worn camera video of Oklahoma City Police Officer Ashley Copeland, paramedics and police officers carry Derrick Elliot Scott onto a stretcher after he was arrested and went in and out of consciousness during the arrest in Oklahoma City.

Vickey Scott was referring to portions of the videos where one of the officers questioned whether her son was faking being unconscious as he lay handcuffed on the ground with another officer still kneeling on his legs.

She said she has had to watch the videos a little bit at a time, because it's too hard to watch them all at once.

"My heart is just broken. It's broken," she said. "I want the officers to be convicted of killing my son. I want something to be done about police officers being more compassionate when people tell them they can't breathe."

Oklahoma County district attorney David Prater reviewed the arrest last year and had a different conclusion about what he saw. Prater sent an email to Police Chief Wade Gourley last August clearing officers of wrongdoing.

"In reviewing the actions of your officers I saw nothing inappropriate; nor was there any evidence of misconduct by your officers," Prater wrote. "They did exactly what they should have done under the circumstances and handled the call very well."

Oklahoma City Police Capt. Larry Withrow called a news conference Tuesday where he described the arrest.

Withrow said the techniques used to restrain Derrick Scott were consistent with what officers are taught at the police academy to minimize the risk of physically harming suspects.

He specifically mentioned that one officer placed her knee across the Derrick Scott's shoulder blades and that another officer straddled the suspect's waist and later slid down to his legs, once control had been achieved.

He said when Derrick Scott complained he couldn't breathe and appeared to go unconscious, officers rolled him over into a "recovery position" and immediately called for medical assistance and began to monitor his health.